It is one year to the day that Ruth left us. Ruth was Linda’s mom, my mother-in-law, and she was very special to all who knew and loved her. Linda was the first child of Ruth and Baxter; she was followed by three brothers. Linda’s parents married young and raised their family in the tradition of the nineteen-fifties: Dad worked and mom was a home-maker, always there for the kids.

At the young age of fifty-five, Baxter suffered a fatal heart attack in the back country while on a Boy Scout outing with the two younger boys. With two youngsters still in school and with absolutely no work experience outside the home, Ruth’s situation was perilous, so it seemed. Ever industrious and determined, Ruth parlayed her well-honed talent for baking and cooking into long-term employment in the cafeterias of the Santa Barbara School District as baker and kitchen employee. When all her children had left the nest, Ruth retired to her love of gardening and keeping house. When she left us last year at ninety-seven years of age, her mental faculties were still vital; it was her body that failed.

All of the above information is but background, a setting for the essence of Ruth. In all my seventy-six years, I have never known a finer, gentler person than Ruth. Her direct kin have suffered the greatest loss, but I and many others mourn her passing, too. She was a quintessential lady and mother in every sense, and I had a great relationship with her through all those many years.

We will never forget the fun we had when we took her on an extensive trip through the United Kingdom in 1996. She was a great traveling companion.

Linda and Ruth were in constant contact by phone, and we stayed with her in Santa Barbara countless times over the years. I will forever appreciate Ruth’s unfailing request at the end of every phone conversation with Linda to “give my love to Alan.” She was very special, indeed.

Fifty Years of Marriage…and Five Days More!

Five days ago, it was precisely fifty years since Linda and I married in Santa Barbara, California – on August 20, 1966. Last Saturday, we celebrated the occasion at the Shadowbrook restaurant in nearby Capitola, near the beach at Santa Cruz. These pictures, taken fifty years apart, book-end our fifty-year journey together.

IMG_6894 Shadowbrook_1A 8_20_2016









The weekend was spent with our immediate family members at a rented house on the beach at Santa Cruz. Our four grandchildren, ages seven to fourteen, had a great time on the beach building sand-castles and playing tag with the active surf on Saturday. That evening, we had a fabulous dinner experience at the picturesque Shadowbrook restaurant, long a prime attraction in the beach town of Capitola.


During dinner, our son-in-law, Scott, asked if I had any advice on how to reach the 50th anniversary of a marriage. I replied with little hesitation: “Pick the right one (partner) from the start! That choice is the most important decision you will ever make in life.”

Another truism to keep in mind: A successful marriage is the union of two inevitably imperfect people who are dedicated to the notion of a lifetime bond and are determined to overlook the nagging annoyances sure to emanate from both parties.

The key to success remains making a wise choice, one based on all the right criteria. Practical considerations are paramount, but a relationship without “sizzle” is off to a poor start.

I Knew Linda Was the One the First Night We Met!

In May of 1965, my good friend Gil, told me about a big apartment complex party to be held that afternoon/evening across the street. He suggested we go over and check it out. We each had an apartment on California Steet in Mountain View, Ca., a professional “singles row” if ever there was one.

I told Gil I had a slight headache (which I did) and did not feel like going. He convinced me to go over at least for a while, so we did. We were not there long when a trio of good-looking girls walked toward our table. I noticed one, in particular, the tall, cute one with the long legs! As they approached our table, a trio of guys engaged the girls in brief conversation, leading to an invitation to “come up to our place and see our etchings!” Gil and I shrugged and smiled as they all left on their “art appreciation” mission. It was not long at all before the girls were back, heading our way, once again. Gil hollered out something to them, probably about the “art show” and the etchings. The girls laughed, and I asked the tall one named Linda if she would like to dance. We danced one number, and then another, and then another.

Two o’clock in the morning found us at the far periphery of the patio party dancing the last number of the night before saying goodnight. We had danced the whole night through and had done a lot of talking, and I liked everything about Linda!

The next morning, without much sleep, I traveled north to Burlingame to meet my parents at an open-house, a home they were considering for purchase. I recall as if it were yesterday standing in the kitchen and telling my parents that “I think I met my wife last night.” My parents bought the home, and, after a fourteen-month courtship, Linda and I began our fifty-year journey together. In a wonderful irony, we both have many precious memories of time spent over the years with my parents in that beautiful little home.

A short postscript: I have always prided myself on “knowing a good thing when I see it.” That held true for the woman I married. It also proved to be true for the 50th anniversary card I gave her last Saturday. I purchased it over fifteen years ago…because I really liked the format and the beautiful sentiment it contains. As a bonus, the card is glitter-free, a rarity on today’s card racks – don’t get me started! Purchasing that card so early-on validates my faith and optimism that we would still both be here, together, to celebrate as we did last Saturday.


The Image of Jesus: In Need of Repair!

On this week of Easter Sunday, this blog post seemed most fitting. Our very good friends, Patti Jacquemain and her husband, Dave Gledhill, lead a most interesting and active life. Patti and my wife, Linda, go way back as best friends to high school days in Santa Barbara, CA – in the late nineteen-fifties. Patti is a well-known, successful artist who came to Santa Barbara with her parents from Detroit, Michigan, in the late nineteen-forties. Although specializing early in her art career in wood-block prints depicting nature and wildlife, Patti’s more recent body of work is with mosaics.


During our visit two weeks ago, Patti and Dave took us to her studio to show us her latest (unexpected) project – a reclamation task on her first major mosaic which dates back to 1965 – a portrayal of Jesus Christ. This work, which has been displayed from the beginning at the local First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara, had begun to suffer from peeling tiles – a mosaic artist’s worst nightmare!

The two most pressing questions for Patti are: Why did this happen and how to fix the damage. Although mounted outdoors on a wall of the church, the mosaic was covered by a walkway overhang. Patti related that, at one time, a small piece of construction machinery doing work near the building accidentally bumped the framed piece as it hung in place; that could have jarred the tiles and begun the deterioration process. Also possibly germane, the tile adhesives available back then were inferior to those which are available to artists like Patti, today.


Patti with the damaged Jesus (note the lower-left corner)

When the four of us left Patti’s studio to take a walk in the nearby local botanic garden, the question literally still “on the table” was how to proceed with the unenviable task of repairing the image of Jesus.


Santa Barbara News-Press article on the mosaic dedication, Sept. 19, 1965


                   Patti in her studio                                    Dave and “Moxie”

Bear 035

Patti’s large mosaic tribute to the long-gone California Grizzly

IMG_3739 Enjoying our walk in the local botanic garden

After our visit to Patti’s studio and a beautiful evening walk in the nearby botanic garden, we four (plus poodles), returned for a fine “strip-steak” dinner served-up by Dave and Patti – a wonderful evening.

I have no doubt that our good friends will come up with a solution to the mosaic problem and that, soon, “Jesus will rise again!”

 Postscript regarding the mosaic problem: Patti is concerned that the mosaic might possibly be laid-down on marine plywood that is warped or otherwise damaged. Her challenge is to transfer the entire mosaic to a new surface without doing it tile-by-tile. If any mosaic expert is reading this who can offer suggestions, please E-mail Dave Gledhill directly at .

Richard Henry Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast”

Occasionally, people ask how I get my ideas for these weekly posts. Patti and Dave, our very good friends from Santa Barbara, California, stopped by for a quick visit this week on their way north. They recently posed the question, and, ironically, they are the very reason for this week’s post.

Dana Plaque - El Paseo_PS4

A few months ago, Linda and I drove down to Santa Barbara to attend a reception for Patti and her artwork at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Patti is a successful artist and life-long resident of Santa Barbara who is well-known for her work with wood-block prints and mosaics. She has recently been commissioned to provide a large mosaic mural for the museum using ocean themes – thus the museum setting for her recent artist’s reception.

Linda and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the dinner with Patti, Dave, and their other friends who attended. The museum, itself, which is located on Santa Barbara’s breakwater, next to the town’s picturesque harbor and wharf, proved to be fascinating, featuring many well-conceived and executed exhibits.

One exhibit that struck my fancy showcased an 1840 first edition of Richard Henry Dana’s classic account of his seafaring experiences, “Two Years Before the Mast.” I had long known about the book and the story related by the exhibit – Dana’s seafaring voyage stopover at Santa Barbara in 1836. I had often seen the old tile-inlay, pictured here, that commemorates his visit.

I was aware of the book’s reputation not only as a vivid journal-account of his two years at sea, but also as a fine example of literary style and storytelling – this from a Bostonian with no literary background, whatsoever. The book is considered an American literary classic as well as perhaps the best seafaring account ever written; my author’s curiosity had long been piqued. Among all of those accolades, the book’s vivid early descriptions of pacific-coast ports-of-call constitute a scarce and valuable resource on life in California under Mexican rule prior to the Mexican-American War of 1846 and the California gold-rush of 1849.

The tile-inlay which is found at El Paseo in de la Guerra Plaza, an historic and small complex of shops and offices in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, commemorates Dana’s visit to that exact location in 1836. In his book, Dana recounts in fine detail the historic wedding of Ana Maria de la Guerra to Alfred Robinson on January 24, 1836; the wedding reception was held at that very spot. The bride was the daughter of Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Noriega, one of the most prominent Californios in all of the region which is now encompassed by the southern portion of California. Prior to the Mexican War of 1846, this territory was governed by Mexico and, through land grants and purchases, de la Guerra owned some one-half million acres. Alfred Robinson was a commercial agent for Bryant, Sturgis and Company, a Boston firm engaged in the hide and tallow trade with the west coast. Alert, the ship on which Dana was traveling and working was a commercial vessel for that firm that happened to anchor at Santa Barbara at a very propitious time – Robinson’s marriage to Ana Maria de la Guerra – undoubtedly the local social event of the year, if not the decade. Because of the ship Alert’s corporate connection to Robinson, Dana and other crew members had a front-row seat at the wedding reception, held at the de la Guerra house which still stands today, less than a stone’s throw from the tile-inlay marker.


The descriptions of the wedding reception in the courtyard of the de la Guerra home and so many other aspects of Dana’s journey are written with such verve and color that I had to purchase a copy of the book for my library. I was able to find a venerable, nicely printed volume from 1930 – one with an association that resonated with me because my wife is from Santa Barbara, we lived there shortly after our marriage, and I attended graduate school there. Linda’s mother still lives there, and we go back often. Accordingly, Linda and I have a very special affection for the place: Anyone who knows Santa Barbara will understand!

On the front free paper of my book is an inscription in ink:

“Santa Barbara, Cal / August 11, 1932.”

Dana Tecolote_1

On the back inside end-paper is pasted a small, old bookseller’s ticket which reads, “Tecolote Bookshop / de la Guerra Studios / Santa Barbara.” My book was clearly purchased there, in the early thirties. The little Tecolote bookshop was a long-time Santa Barbara institution at that location – within sight of the Dana tile-inlay and just around the corner from the original de la Guerra Casa in whose patio courtyard Richard Henry Dana witnessed and recorded the historic wedding reception. I have several other books in my library containing a Tecolote bookseller’s ticket – books I purchased there in the late nineteen sixties when we lived in Santa Barbara.


The de la Guerra house today with its patio courtyard – much as it was then


The above photo by Carleton Watkins shows the Santa Barbara Mission/Church (Queen of the Missions) as it appeared in 1876. It was here that the de la Guerra / Robinson wedding was held on January 24, 1836, and it was here that the patriarch of the family, Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Noriega was buried in the church crypt after his death in 1858.

The following are excerpts from Dana’s description of the wedding and the reception which apparently went on for two or three days:

“Sunday, January 10th [1836]. Arrived at Santa Barbara, and on the following Wednesday, slipped our cable and went to sea, on account of a south-easter. Returned to our anchorage the next day.”

“Great preparations were making on shore for the marriage of our agent [Alfred Robinson], who was to marry Donna Anneta De…”

“On the day appointed for the wedding, we took the captain ashore in the gig, and had orders to come for him at night, with leave to go up to the house and see the fandango. Returning on board, we found preparations making for a salute. Our guns were loaded and run out, men appointed to each, cartridges served out, matches lighted, and all the flags were ready to be run up. I took my place at the starboard after gun, and we all waited for the signal from on shore. At ten o’clock the bride went up with her sister to the confessional, dressed in deep black. Nearly an hour intervened, when the great doors of the mission church opened, the bells rang out a loud, discordant peal, the private signal for us was run up by the captain ashore, the bride, dressed in complete white, came out of the church with the bridegroom, followed by a long procession.”

“Just as she stepped from the church door, a small white cloud issued from the bows of our ship, which was in full sight [from the mission steps], the loud report echoed among the surrounding hills and over the bay, and instantly the ship was dressed in flags and pennants from stem to stern. Twenty-three guns followed in regular succession, with an interval of fifteen seconds between each when the cloud cleared away, and the ship lay dressed in her colors, all day. At sun-down, another salute of the same number of guns was fired, and all the flags run down. This we thought was pretty well – a gun every fifteen seconds – for a merchantman [ship] with only four guns and a dozen or twenty men.”

“After the supper, the gig’s crew were called, and we rowed ashore, dressed in our uniform, beached the boat, and went up to the fandango. The bride’s father’s house was the principal one in the place, with a large court in front, upon which a tent was built, capable of containing several hundred people. As we drew near, we heard the accustomed sound of violins and guitars, and saw a great motion of the people within. Going in, we found nearly all the people of the town – men, women, and children – collected and crowded together, barely leaving room for the dancers; for on these occasions no invitations are given, but everyone is expected to come, though there is always a private entertainment within the house for particular friends. The old women sat down in rows, clapping their hands to the music, and applauding the young ones. The music was lively, and among the tunes, we recognized several of our popular airs, which we, without doubt, would have taken from the Spanish.”

What prompted Richard Henry Dana, a young, privileged descendent of early colonial settlers to set sail as an apprentice sailor on a merchant vessel as opposed to a booking a comfortable, luxury cruise?  Undoubtedly, his independent spirit and restless curiosity drove him. His journey began from Boston on August 14, 1834 and ended two years later. His descriptions in the book based on his voyage journal vividly describe the terror and the beauty of the sea. Herman Melville, another author who was no stranger to nautical tales, wrote, “But if you want the best idea of [the treacherous] Cape Horn, get my friend Dana’s unmatchable Two Years Before the Mast.”

Whether standing in the courtyard of the de la Guerra house or gazing at the tile-inlay just around the corner of the complex, the scenes Dana describes seem so believable, almost touchable. That story has rattled around in my head for a long time; it took our recent visit to Santa Barbara for Patti’s reception and the museum exhibits we saw that evening to trigger my desire to finally put it on paper.

These blog posts of mine often result from the confluence of many diverse currents all converging to produce an idea. This post is typical of that process!